Ed Balls says Strictly Come Dancing has taught him he has an “inner Beyonce” – and he is already thinking of getting to the final of the dance contest.
“We don’t feel like stopping,” the former MP told the BBC.
If he and partner Katya Jones reach next week’s quarter-final, he will be the show’s most successful politician.
But he says he has no plans for what to do off the Strictly dance floor when the show ends – other than performing at the Labour Party conference.
He is competing for the glitterball trophy against Judge Rinder star Robert Rinder, former Eternal singer Louise Redknapp, BBC presenter Ore Oduba, Olympic gymnast Claudia Fragapane and actor Danny Mac.
‘Harder and tougher’
The former shadow chancellor has surprised, delighted and appalled in equal measure with his moves as he has taken to the dancing challenge with gusto.
During this weekend’s show, he will dance a tango to the Rolling Stones’ classic (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – acting as a male model and strutting his stuff on a catwalk.
Balls says: “If you’d said to me three months ago I had an inner Beyonce, I’d never have believed it. But I clearly did.”
He explains that he discovered his supposed similarity to the chart-topping singer when Jones shouted to him, in the middle of a live performance, “give them more!”.
“I’ve been singing Halo in the shower ever since,” he adds, referring to one of the US star’s hits.
Asked if a return to politics could be on the cards, Balls says: “The process of Strictly is physically and mentally exhausting. It is really, really hard to hold everything in your head at the same time.
“And if I can get to the end of Saturday and not forget the tango, that is a triumph. There just isn’t space to think about it. I have no idea what I want to do next year, and that is absolutely fine. I’m going to be chairing Norwich [City football club], I’ve still got my stuff at Harvard and King’s [universities].
“What I’ll do next, I don’t know, but there’s not time to worry at the moment.
“At the moment we’re still trying to see if we can to the quarter-final, the semi-final and even the final.
“The longer the competition goes on, the standards are higher, we’re having to do more dancing – it really is getting harder and tougher. There’s not enough space to worry about anything else.”
Balls admits to being “really surprised” to have survived to week 10.
He has a public speaking event every night next week – having thought his diary would be clear.
“I just assumed that we would be out of the competition by now,” he says. “I’ve got a busy week next week if we stay in.
“I don’t think we ever imagined that the public would vote for us in the way they have. We’ve been at the bottom [of the leaderboard] eight times out of nine.”
Balls admits he has “never been really good”.
“I started bad and I’ve got better,” he says. “If people think we’re trying hard, improving and fun – as Claudia [Winkleman, one of the two presenters] says, ‘who do you want to come back next week?’. While people still want us to come back, we’ll keep coming back.”
Jones explains: “No-one could predict how we could do. No one knew what would happen.”
‘Like Olympic medal’
“It’s clear we’re having a good time,” adds Balls. “I have been trying really hard to get better. But what Katya is able to do with the choreography is get the dance and the performance entertainment.”
Even still, Balls looks aghast when it is suggested he could win the whole show.
“Win? Oh no, look – we’re taking it one game at a time, one dance at a time. We don’t feel like stopping,” he says.
“I want to get a seven from Craig – I’d love to get 30 from the judges, which we haven’t managed yet.
“And most of all, I really want to do the rumba. I think it might be quite special. I might be able to deliver romance through dance, in a way which I thought would be impossible three months ago.”
He adds that he wants to do the rumba “before the final”, saying: “I want a smile and a seven from Craig for doing a sensuous steamy rumba – that would be like an Olympic gold medal.”
But he admits his wife, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, may not be so keen to see such a dance.
“Yvette said I should never do a rumba.”
Balls said he may dance the Charleston with her at the next Labour Party conference disco – the place he had first exhibited his prowess with Gangnam Style, which he performed on the show to great acclaim earlier this month.
Speaking of this weekend’s dance – shortly after having physiotherapy for a back problem he has picked up while learning it – Balls says: “We’re channelling male modelling, with a nod in the direction of Zoolander.”
“It turns out I don’t really have an aptitude for it,” he says of modelling, adding when told by Katya he had nice eyes: “I could model contact lenses.”
Despite his popularity, Balls is surprised to learn of a fan club set up in his honour on Facebook.
“I didn’t know about the fan group,” he says. “Are there four people in it?”
When told there were nearly 700 members, he jokes: “That’s a lot of Christmas cards. That is news and it’s nice news.”